Friday, May 31, 2019

Preview: Newman and Education

On Monday, June 3, Anna Mitchell or Matt Swaim and I will continue our Santo Subito! Newman series on the Son Rise Morning Show with a discussion of Newman and Education (about 7:50 a.m. Eastern DST/6:50 a.m. Central DST).

In the first half of his life, the Anglican half, Newman participated as a student, tutor, and fellow in England's great educational institutions. He lived and studied at Great Ealing School in London and then at Trinity College at the University of Oxford. Famously, he barely passed his final exams, having overworked and crammed too much in preparation, nevertheless, he was selected as tutor and fellow at Oriel College.

At the same time he had been preparing for ordination in the Church of England. As a minister and a tutor, Newman felt he had a pastoral and clerical obligation to his students, not merely academic. When conflict arose about this idea, he resigned as tutor and remained as fellow.

Newman loved Oxford; he hoped to spend his whole life there. In his novel Loss and Gain, Charles Reading reflects Newman's affection:

There lay old Oxford before him, with its hills as gentle and its meadows as green as ever. At the first view of that beloved place he stood still with folded arms, unable to proceed. Each college, each church—he counted them by their pinnacles and turrets. The silver Isis, the grey willows, the far-stretching plains, the dark groves, the distant range of Shotover, the pleasant village where he had lived with Carlton and Sheffield—wood, water, stone, all so calm, so bright, they might have been his, but his they were not. Whatever he was to gain by becoming a Catholic, this he had lost; whatever he was to gain higher and better, at least this and such as this he never could have again. He could not have another Oxford, he could not have the friends of his boyhood and youth in the choice of his manhood. He mounted the well-known gate on the left, and proceeded down into the plain. There was no one to greet him, to sympathise with him; there was no one to believe he needed sympathy; no one to believe he had given up anything; no one to take interest in him, to feel tender towards him, to defend him. He had suffered much, but there was no one to believe that he had suffered. He would be thought to be inflicting merely, not undergoing, suffering. He might indeed say that he had suffered; but he would be rudely told that every one follows his own will, and that if he had given up Oxford, it was for a whim which he liked better than it. But rather, there was no one to know him; he had been virtually three years away; three years is a generation; Oxford had been his place once, but his place knew him no more. He recollected with what awe and transport he had at first come to the University, as to some sacred shrine; and how from time to time hopes had come over him that some day or other he should have gained a title to residence on one of its ancient foundations. One night in particular came across his memory, how a friend and he had ascended to the top of one of its many towers with the purpose of making observations on the stars; and how, while his friend was busily engaged with the pointers, he, earthly-minded youth, had been looking down into the deep, gas-lit, dark-shadowed quadrangles, and wondering if he should ever be Fellow of this or that College, which he singled out from the mass of academical buildings. All had passed as a dream, and he was a stranger where he had hoped to have had a home.

As Newman wrote in the Apologia pro Vita Sua:

I left Oxford for good on Monday, February 23, 1846. On the Saturday and Sunday before, I was in my House at Littlemore simply by myself, as I had been for the first day or two when I had originally taken possession of it. I slept on Sunday night at my dear friend's, Mr. Johnson's, at the Observatory. Various friends came to see the last of me; Mr. Copeland, Mr. Church, Mr. Buckle, Mr. Pattison, and Mr. Lewis. Dr. Pusey too came up to take leave of me; and I called on Dr. Ogle, one of my very oldest friends, for he was my private Tutor, when I was an Undergraduate. In him I took leave of my first College, Trinity, which was so dear to me, and which held on its foundation so many who have [Note 123] been kind to me both when I was a boy, and all through my Oxford life. Trinity had never been unkind to me. There used to be much snapdragon growing on the walls opposite my freshman's rooms there, and I had for years taken it as the emblem of my own perpetual residence even unto death in my University.

On the morning of the 23rd I left the Observatory. I have never seen Oxford since, excepting its spires, as they are seen from the railway. [Note 124]

Newman did return to Oxford in 1878 when Trinity College offered him its first honorary fellowship: he met with his old tutor, Thomas Short, who was 90; visited Pusey and Keble College. He returned again in May of 1880 after being named a Cardinal.

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